So, we’re all dreaming now. I know the takeover is yet to be completed but I think we can say we’re at the contracts exchanged basis and we’re round measuring up for curtains.
As ever I’m allowing myself to become exasperated with the rubbish in the media and what passes for comment most of which barely stands up to scrutiny.
I’ve read material making claims via talking head pundits, usually ex-players about what Newcastle United can and can’t do under a new cash-rich, ambitious ownership for which success is hard-wired into everything they do. Few of us know exactly what those plans will be but I’m going to take a wild punt and guess the Saudi Public Investment Fund isn’t interested in finishing tenth in the PL and not competing in the cup competitions.
I read one comment yesterday suggesting United’s level should be around where Everton, Wolves and West Ham are. They go onto say just how nigh on impossible it is to break into the top four.
Let’s scrutinise that a wee bit further.
Currently Newcastle United is in thirteenth position on 35 points notwithstanding the COVID-19 lockdown. We are currently above West Ham in sixteenth position on 27 points. So, I’d suggest West Ham is not a club that is setting the bar for a re-energised Newcastle United. Then there’s Everton. The Toffees are currently one place above us and on 37 points. A 2-point margin after 29 games. Everton incidentally posted #100m losses in their most recent accounts.
Wolves have made big strides in the last few seasons and there is much to admire in them. Wolves are in sixth place and on 43 points, a full 8 more than us. That is a gap not a chasm.
How about the big-hitters? The clubs we’re led to believe are invincible, impregnable etc.
Arsenal, one of the greatest clubs in the country is ninth on 40 points. 5 points ahead of us. There is widespread discontent in the Gunners’ fan-base at how their club is being run by Kroenke. They are not the force they were and I doubt whether Arteta is the man to disguise the loss of ambition at a club vulnerable to losing its best players. Their north London neighbours Tottenham are a point ahead of Arsenal and 6 points ahead of us. Mourinho is a manager in decline, past his sell-by date and now has to deal with a set-up playing catch-up with those ahead of them and facing a battle to hold onto Harry Kane, their iconic centre-forward. Spurs for all the media admiration haven’t had the brasso out for a long while.
Liverpool in particular, the Champions League holders appear impregnable. Man City are not far off but there is a doubt about Pep’s long term commitment and they face a ban from the Champions League which will reduce their attractiveness to elite players and perhaps may even unsettle others. Man Utd will always be a force but their air of invincibility has taken something of a knock in the years since Ferguson stood down. Ole Gunnar Solskjær doesn’t really convince many, Ed Woodward is held in open contempt by Reds fans as being inept on the football side and the Glazers widely seen as a malignant force upon the Old Trafford club. Bloody shame eh?
But how realistic is it for a mid-table club to catapult itself amongst the top four and so called elite? Is it impossible as some of the nay-sayers attempt to counsel us?
Well, Leicester City, under the management of Brendan Rodgers and after a summer of prudent investment is currently in third position in the PL on 53 points. Who won’t say that isn’t an excellent position for the Foxes to be in because notwithstanding their PL title of a few seasons ago they aren’t one of the traditional power-houses of English football. Last season (2018/19) they finished in ninth position on 52 points a full 7 points ahead of Rafa’s Newcastle United on 45.
So, from ninth to third, albeit the season hasn’t finished!
I’m suggesting this glass ceiling which is parroted as providing a barrier to keep out Newcastle United isn’t all that. Clubs which stop being well-run and making the right decisions will go into decline – Arsenal, Man Utd – and those which are well-run and do the right things will rise.
We are one of those clubs which have done the wrong things and have declined – we’ve seen it over the Ashley era but in truth we were on a downward slide before then too.
The central conversation so far about this takeover has been all about the Nelsons that will be invested in players. It’s obvious we will need to lash money out on transfer fees and wages. Agents will be likely to be weighed in as well. But it has to be invested cleverly which is a statement of the bleedin’ obvious. Players will be attracted to a club for several different reasons amongst which will be the wedge but another will be about their prospects to improve, win stuff, the players at the club, the set-up and of course the manager. We should avoid players who only want to come to United for money like the plague. They need to buy into the project and be part of a plan to move forward. Our recruitment will have to be clever so the current method which appears to be a cross between Football Manager, Wyscout and the whims of Lee Charnley has to be binned off quick snap sharpish. If we are going to have a quick intake of funds it has to be invested wisely.
That’s not to say the whole first team needs to be replaced en-masse. There are good players already at United, particularly the goalie and central defenders with Saint Maximin and Almiron likely to benefit greatly from better players around them. I believe the Longstaffs will flourish too. If they stay.
Having ambition and resources is the starting point but a meaningful plan with proper professional and capable people to execute it is critical.
We’ll see who will be brought in to turn dreams into reality soon but the starting point is to stop listening to people who tell us what we can’t do and begin thinking about how we’re going to do what we want.
“I want people to dream about their football club. They should, we should all be dreamers at heart. Some people are the opposite and say “we can’t do that” but when you ask why they can’t give a reason. Well, I say, why not?” – Kevin Keegan.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …